SpaceX Dragon astronauts aiming for rare splashdown off Florida coast

Kennedy Space Center  SpaceX via Flickr An illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon orbiting Earth. Kennedy Space Center  SpaceX via Flickr

Kennedy Space Center SpaceX via Flickr An illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon orbiting Earth. Kennedy Space Center SpaceX via Flickr

After a review of the latest forecast for the waters off the coast of Florida, and taking into account the seven possible splashdown locations, it has been chose to proceed with plans to bring astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley back to earth aboard the SpaceX Endeavor Crew Dragon this weekend, now targeting for the departure to occur at 7:34 p.m. EDT, Saturday, Aug. 1, with splashdown estimated at 2:42 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 2.

The Soyuz 23 mission in October 1976 accidentally landed in Lake Tengiz in the middle of blizzard.

The splashdown is the final step in the mission created to test SpaceX's human spaceflight system - including launch, docking, splashdown, and recovery operations.

In this image from video made available by NASA, astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken prepare for undocking from the International Space Station, aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020.

The vehicle Behnken and Hurley flew will be refurbished for a Crew-2 Mission in the first half of 2021 with another four astronauts - including Megan McArthur, Behnken's wife, who will serve as the mission's pilot.

Live coverage of the Dragon's return is due to continue through splashdown.

Behnken and Hurley, whose flight was the first to take place in a commercially built spacecraft, are scheduled to depart the International Space Station on Saturday evening and splash down off the Florida coast Sunday. Eastern and started to maneuver away from the station. The next SpaceX crew flight is targeted for the end of September.

NASA managers say the Crew Dragon has chalked up a near flawless flight, setting the stage for re-entry and splashdown.

"We won't leave the space station without some good landing opportunities in front of us, good splashdown weather, " Behnken told reporters.

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During their 63 days on the space station, Behnken and Hurley beefed up the station's crew complement, which had been down to three before they arrived.Behnken participated in four spacewalks with Cassidy to upgrade the orbital outpost's power system. The prime target is off the coast of Panama City, halfway between Tallahassee and Pensacola.

At 5:45 pm EDT (21:45 UTC), the two will wave goodbye to Cassidy, Anatoli Ivanishin, and Ivan Vagner before closing the hatches that separate Endeavour and the Station.

The US space agency's Crew Program is aimed at developing private spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from low Earth orbit.

After nearly 8 hours, the Dragon is slated for splash down at one of seven targeted water landing sites off the coast of Florida at 2:42 PM EDT on August 2 (12:12 am IST on August 3). The last time was following the joint U.S. At least one other of the seven total landing sites must be clear for Crew Dragon's splash down too, though.

Flight controllers are keeping close watch on Hurricane Isaias, expected to stick to Florida's east coast.

SpaceX plans for the astronauts to exit the capsule within an hour after splashdown, at which point it will collect the capsule for re-use.

NASA and SpaceX will aim for no more than 60 minutes from splashdown to crew egress of Dragon.

After medical checkouts, Bob and Doug will be airlifted by helicopter to Panama City, where they will board a waiting NASA aircraft and be flown back to Ellington field in Houston, Texas.

Behnken has an extra reason to bring this Dragon back in good shape.

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